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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Paul Wellstone's Memory

Today is the third anniversary of Senator Paul Wellstone's tragic death. Wellstone, his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia, and three campaign staffers were killed in a plane crash while campaigning for his re-election in 2002.

The night before he died, I bought a ticket to go to Minneapolis to work on the final five days of his campaign. I found out about the crash the next morning when I got to my office (then in Berkeley) and an officemate told me. I went anyway, with a close friend of mine, and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life to volunteer for Fritz Mondale out of Wellstone's HQ together with his unbelievably committed staff. My first task was to call around to trade unions to see if anyone could help us build a shelter over the impromptu memorial outside the campaign office, where seemingly hundreds of people had left flowers, signs, and notes of grief.

I'll never forget the manic energy that people in that office had. It seemed like everyone was working 24/7 to avoid grieving. One day, Paul's son David came to the Congressional office where I'd been working, together with Al Franken. I'll never forget David Wellstone standing there, a week after his parents and sister were killed, trying to comfort and energize us, a collection of total strangers. I remember thinking so sad for him, and so amazed by his ability to carry on, publicly, under the worst possible conditions.

Fritz damn near pulled it off, which is truly amazing under the circumstances. We had to make lawn and other signs by hand, because there wasn't time to order printed ones.

I'll never forget standing in the ballroom for the victory party when Fritz came out to say that it would be a very long night, with many Dem precincts left to count. Sometime around 2:00 in the morning, we went back to our hotel, with still no word and early Wednesday flights waiting for us. I remember the sick feeling I had when I got up to leave and watched Mondale's concession speech around 6:30 Wednesday morning.

Perhaps another time I'll talk about the deceitful and slanderous attacks launched by Minnesota and national Republicans about the raucous tribute to Wellstone that took place a few days after his death. Many people have ascribed Mondale's loss to the supposedly overwhelmingly negative tone of that tribute. I wasn't in Minneapolis yet when it happened, but no fair-minded person can read Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars" chapter on the Wellstone tribute and not be horrified by the GOP's smears. Even in the context of recent years, the dishonesty and callousness of those smears stands out.

It saddened me greatly that Fritz Mondale -- one of the most decent people in American politics for decades -- lost that way, if indeed that's the reason.

But I'd like to think that Wellstone's memory will be not just about his death and the terrible political result of it, but also about his live and the passionate views and ideals he held. His children and supporters have worked to do something positive to preserve and extend his legacy of progressive---and winning---grass-roots politics.

Check it out at http://www.wellstone.org/.

In the meantime, here's one of my favorite quotes from Paul Wellstone, one that appeared on a campaign poster that was prominently displayed in the Minneapolis campaign office where I worked:
Politics is not just about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of peoples lives, about lessening human suffering in our world and bringing about more peace and more justice.
I hope Democratic insiders think about these words at least a bit today.

4 Comments:

Anonymous lerxst said...

Thanks for reminding us about Wellstone (and Mondale).

10/25/2005 3:03 PM  
Blogger ScottDinsmore said...

Your readers might be interested in this event...


News & Events
Wellstone book reception: Washington, DC
10/26/05

Event co-sponsored by Campaign for America's Future and Progressive Majority

Celebrate Paul Wellstone's Legacy With Campaign for America's Future and Progressive Majority! You are invited to a party celebrating the release of two new books from the staff of Wellstone Action. Jeff Blodgett, Executive Director of Wellstone Action, will talk about the organization's first book, Politics the Wellstone Way: How to Elect Progressive Candidates and Win on Issues. He will be joined by Bill Lofy, author of a new biography of Wellstone, Paul Wellstone: The Life of a Passionate Progressive. Both books were released this fall and are available in stores now.

Join co-sponsors Campaign for America's Future and Progressive Majority as we celebrate Paul Wellstone's legacy and the work of Wellstone Action.

Reception and Conversation with
Jeff Blodgett and Bill Lofy of Wellstone Action
Wednesday, October 26, 2005 (6:30-8:30 pm)
3025 N Street NW, Washington DC 20008

Please RSVP to Kelisa Kehne-Cliff at Campaign for America's Future (kkehnecliff@ourfuture.org or 202-955-5665).

http://www.wellstone.org/news/events_detail.aspx?itemID=6998&catID=6

10/25/2005 3:49 PM  
Blogger Bu$h Ate My Baby said...

I'll look forward to hearing about those deceitful and slanderous attacks...

10/27/2005 9:22 AM  
Blogger Bu$h Ate My Baby said...

I'll look forward to hearing about those deceitful and slanderous attacks...

10/27/2005 9:22 AM  

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